News in brief
Monash staff, students and supporters have been the recipients of a run of recent notable awards.
MIPS' Professor Ben Boyd has been awarded the prestigious College of Fellows Award from the Controlled Release Society (CRS), which recognises members of the Society who have made exceptional contributions in the area of delivery science and technology.
Dr Darren Creek, also from MIPS, was awarded the prestigious NHMRC Award for Excellence, for having the top-ranked Career Development Fellowship Level II (Biomedical) for 2017.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia SA/NT presented the 2018 Pharmacist of the Year Award to Dr Janet Sluggett, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) at Monash University.
Fourth-year Monash Pharmacy student Rhiannon Froude was named Victorian Pharmacy Student of the Year following a statewide competition. The prestigious title is awarded by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and recognises the top-performing student.
Mr John McCall MacBain O.C. and Dr Marcy McCall MacBain, co-founders of the international McCall MacBain Foundation, have been awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Laws; Honoris Causa), which is Monash University’s highest honour. Since its formation, the Foundation has committed over $200 million of charitable donations globally for scholarships and education, health and the environment.
Professor Jonathan Baell from the Medicinal Chemistry theme of MIPS has been awarded the prestigious Adrien Albert Award for 2018. Presented by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI), it is the premier award from RACI’s Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology. It recognises outstanding research in the field of medicinal or agricultural chemistry or chemical biology.
Monash University alumnus Dr Craig Rayner has been awarded the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award for the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The Distinguished Alumni Awards recognise alumni who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements, inspirational leadership and made significant contributions to their field.
Doctor Rayner’s academic research focuses on both infectious disease research and clinical pharmacology. Doctor Rayner is currently the senior vice president of integrated drug development with Certara, a global consulting firm in drug development, regulatory science and knowledge integration.
Director of Pharmacy Education Professor Tina Brock has been named a fellow of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).
FIP, which represents over four million pharmacists globally, is an organisation dedicated to improving global health through pharmaceutical education, pharmaceutical sciences and pharmaceutical practice. The FIP Fellowship recognises members of FIP who have demonstrated leadership capabilities in a global setting.
Director of Project Pharmacist John Jackson has been named PSA Pharmacist of the Year (full story on page 5).
Seven researchers from Monash Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences have been awarded fellowships and grants in the recent National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant period.
Professor Patrick Sexton and Doctor Denise Wootten, from the Drug Discovery Biology theme in MIPS, have both been awarded five-year Senior Fellowships. Professor Sexton has been awarded a Senior Principal Research Fellowship, the highest level of fellowship the NHMRC offers. (Full story on page 24).
The Development Grant Scheme awards funding to individual researchers to support the commercial development of a product, process or service that will result in improved healthcare or disease prevention.
Professor Baell from the Medicinal Chemistry theme received a grant for his research showing that a molecule promotes cell survival and cardio protection in ischaemia-reperfusion injury (IRI). He aims to further develop this molecule into a treatment that can be administered in a clinical setting to treat IRI.
Associate Professor Bernard Flynn, also from Medicinal Chemistry, studies anticancer natural product synthesis and GPCR function, specifically chemical biology function. His research aims to expand the therapeutic application of targeted inhibitors for the treatment of metabolic diseases to treat fibrotic diseases, specifically heart failure, chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Doctors Janet Sluggett and Amy Page were both awarded Early Career Fellowships, given to researchers to undertake research of major significance and benefit to Australian health. Doctor Sluggett, a Research Fellow at CMUS, studies the quality use of medicines, pharmacoepidemiology and cognitive decline. Dr Page, a teaching associate at CMUS, addresses medication prescription in elderly populations and medication-related harms in older patients.
A consortium of researchers led by Professor Martin Scanlon from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) has received a major grant to establish a new Industry Transformation Training Centre (ITTC).
The ITTC for the Development of Tools for Fragment-Based Design has received $4.2M in funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), alongside $5.4M of cash and in-kind support from its 11 industry partners, plus $2.9M of cash and in-kind support from the partner universities.
The ITTC will provide PhD students and early-career postdoctoral researchers with direct experience in industry partner laboratories, as well as training and masterclasses in early-stage drug discovery from industry experts.
A multimillion-dollar deal brokered between global pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and Melbourne-based Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) could lead to the development of life-saving cancer drugs, underpinned by Monash University research.
CTx has announced a two-year research collaboration and a license agreement with Pfizer worth $20 million upfront, but it could be worth as much as $650 million in milestone payments to CTx if the program reaches commercialisation.
The partnership is underpinned by two novel pre-clinical cancer programs developed by researchers from MIPS working alongside other CTx participant organisations. The programs target proteins that are known to play an important role in driving the growth of both solid and blood cancers – by switching on or off – cancer-causing chemicals in the body.
The novel work of the CTx medicinal chemistry team, based at MIPS, has led to advanced molecules that may hold the key to promising new drug developments. MIPS’ Dr Paul Stupple leads the medicinal chemistry efforts for Cancer Therapeutics CRC.
John Jackson, Director of Project Pharmacist and longstanding advocate for pharmacist role expansion, has been named 2018 Pharmacist of the Year by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.
The award recognises pharmacists who show outstanding performance and dedication to their profession through continued service.
Mr Jackson, a pharmacy veteran and founder of the John Jackson Pharmacy, has dedicated his professional career to improving pharmacy practice and increasing equitable access to life-saving medicines for individuals.
Established in 1985, the John Jackson Pharmacy was a hospital pharmacy in Windsor committed to offering dispensing, clinical and administrative pharmacist services to hospitals in both the private and public sector and based on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Mr Jackson has shown consistent commitment to improving pharmacist skills, expanding the role of pharmacists and providing equitable access to medicines for a range of communities. His roles include board member of the Australian Pharmacy Council, Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare. Mr Jackson pioneered the first Federal Government-approved medication chart, which incorporated PBS prescription forms as part of its goal.
Project Pharmacist is a Monash University initiative that is exploring new models of practice for Pharmacy (update on page 33). As Director of the Project, Mr Jackson is investigating the technological, political and social factors that make up the framework in which pharmacists operate.
Mr Jackson, who recently assisted in rescuing a community pharmacy after state funding was stopped, has dedicated a lifetime career to advocating for pharmacists and the importance of their role in healthcare.
The Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) is now home to another world-leading piece of research infrastructure in the form of a Leica SP8 CARS, FLIM and FCS microscope.
This makes MIPS the only research facility in Australia with a turn-key CARS system and the first in the world with Leica’s new FALCON FLIM technology.
The microscope has been obtained through the ARC LIEF program, a collaborative project with researchers at the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology.
The Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) microscopy is a label-free method that enables imaging by displaying the characteristic intrinsic vibrational contrast of a structure’s molecules. The key advantage of this process is that it allows for the sample to remain mostly unaffected.
Researchers can therefore minimise sample preparation work and improve the speed and resolution of 3D imaging.
FALCON is Leica’s proprietary Fluorescence- Imaging Lifetime Microscopy (“FLIM”) system. FLIM reduces the traditionally slow measurement process of the lifetime of dyes (usually in nanoseconds). Traditional FLIM systems capture data in 30 seconds per image. The FALCON system can now capture data in 30 images per second, which has never been achieved previously. Cameron Nowell, Head of Imaging, FACS and Analysis Core at MIPS, says the new microscope system is an exciting development and he encourages partners to move quickly to take advantage of it.
“Australian researchers have had access to CARS microscopes before,” says Nowell, “but they have usually been custom made and limited in their application. This new system is in a whole other league in terms of its accessibility and breadth of application”.
One of the key potential areas it can be employed in is Quality Assurance and Quality Control. Nowell gives the example of food manufacturers.
“CARS provides a reliable way to do fast and accurate quality assurance. Because it’s non-invasive, there’s no need to spend time injecting dyes. And you get denser, more accurate data because of the higher frame rate.”
Professor Chris Porter, Director of MIPS, says that this latest investment further underlines Monash University’s commitment to excellence in biomedical research.
“This new piece of infrastructure opens whole new possibilities for research in drug discovery and development here at MIPS, and also more broadly in the biomedical sciences through our partners and collaborators,” says Porter. “The potential is extremely exciting”.
PharmAlliance, the partnership between the Monash Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and two of the world’s other most highly regarded pharmacy schools, is now in its fourth year.
According to Dean Bill Charman, by bringing together the expertise and resources found at Monash and in collaboration with University College London and the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the institutions have been able to achieve progress that may have otherwise not been possible.
“The partnership has amplified our impact across all of the areas in which we work,” Professor Charman said.
“This is most clearly seen in research, where close to 30 papers have been published by collaborators from at least two of the three institutions since the partnership’s inception. We have also been able to attract significant funding in areas including Fragment-Based Drug Design.”
“It’s also bearing fruit across our educational programs too, and enabling us to enhance the experience of students outside the classroom,” he said.
Dean Charman points to education exchange and resource sharing, an International Pharmacy Practice Summit, staff and student exchanges, networking and knowledge exchange as amongst the outcomes that Monash could not have achieved on its own.
One area for potential future development involves investigating whether the Alliance can play a role in monitoring and evaluating the WHO Patient Safety Challenge, which aims to address unsafe medication practices and errors.
The Alliance members have also identified Antimicrobial Resistance as an important global health challenge that will be an area of future focus.
Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sir John Monash Distinguished Professor Bill Charman will be stepping down as Dean, with effect from mid-2019, and returning fully to his role as a Sir John Monash Distinguished Professor within the Faculty.
Appointed Dean of the Faculty in 2007, Bill’s leadership has contributed greatly to the success of the Faculty and University. Outstanding achievements by the Faculty during his deanship have included Monash University ranking in the top 10 worldwide annual QS World University rankings in the discipline over the 2012–2018 period (and number two worldwide in 2017 and 2018).
Notable successes also include the establishment of the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, which has the highest number of Highly Cited Researchers in its field worldwide. Under his deanship, the Faculty has established PharmAlliance, a major partnership with Schools of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University College London.
In recognition of his distinction and sustained high-level contributions to his discipline, Monash and the community, Bill was appointed in 2011 as a Sir John Monash Distinguished Professor, the most prestigious title conferred by Monash on serving professors of the University. He is one of only four current professors to hold the title.